Using a PC as a Satellite receiver and PVR
Satellite DVB cards work similar in a way to TV Tuners with the exception that Satellite DVB cards work solely on Satellite reception. As the broadcast remains in digital all the way to the PC unlike with analogue TV tuners, both the picture and recording quality remains the same as what is broadcast from the source.
The most popular satellite PCI based DVB card is the Skystar2. With this card and suitable drivers and software, this can pick up a wide range of content as well as handle various symbol rates, audio & video encoding and send out Diseq 1.0 & 1.2 signals for motorised and multi dish setups. Note that the Skystar2 does not provide support for a Common Interface.
Some of the more advanced satellite DVB cards offer Common Interface support where the user can plug in a CAM and thus tune premium or subscription content on their PC.
The minimum PC requirements for viewing satellite content is a 900MHz Pentium III or AMD with at least a 2x AGP graphics card (4x recommended).
Note that when recording off of digital satellite TV, no audio or video encoding takes place since the transmitted content is already in MPEG2 with either MPEG2 or AC3 audio. This means that there is no quality loss in re-encoding the content unlike using a capture card or TV Tuner connected to satellite receiver. When the user chooses to record a channel from a DVB card, all the software does is takes the broadcast stream and pipes it into a file. This file may then be viewed back in most DVD player software including WinDVD and PowerDVD. Note that Windows Media Player is not fully compatible with recorded DVB content and may either crash or have issues when playing back the recording.
DVB card drivers
As with TV tuner cards it is important to have the correct up-to-date drivers for the DVB card. The latest driver at the time of writing for Skystar2 is v.4.3.0. Most satellite tuner software including ProgDVB requires at least v.4.2.2 of the B2C2 driver for the Skystar2.
For the latest Technisat B2C2 drivers, check the following link:
Satellite Tuner and PVR software
With the popularity of satellite TV and DVB cards, there is a wide range of satellite tuner software on the Internet. The most common packages include ProgDVB and MyTheatre 2.x which are freeware and MyTheatre 3.x, DVBViewer and Watch TV Pro which are shareware. ProgDVB is freeware and a wide range of plug-ins is available for it. I am most familiar with ProgDVB and DVBViewer. Note that the B2C2 drivers for the Skystar2 include an unrestricted version of DVBViewer.
ProgDVB viewer is likely the most widely used software for watching satellite TV on the PC. It offers channel categorising, PVR, Diseq 1.0, network broadcasting and auto searching as standard.
Setting up the software is fairly straight forward. Be sure to choose the correct DVB and register the Directshow Elecard drivers during installation. Choose â€˜Settingsâ€™ -> â€˜Diseqâ€™ to set-up the satellite positions. Finally choose â€˜Channel Listâ€™ -> â€˜Channel Searchâ€™ -> â€˜(Satellite Name)â€™, wait a few minutes and you are ready to start watching Satellite TV
In the the channel list, green icons indicate free-to-air channels and red icons indicate encrypted channels. A ‘V’ symbol indicates TV channels, ‘R’ symbol indicates radio/audio only and a floppy symbol indicates data such as from a satellite broadband service.
To setup the PVR choose â€˜Serviceâ€™ -> â€˜Record Optionsâ€™ and specify the path to store the recorded content. Recording is as simple as choosing the channel and clicking â€˜Recordâ€™ video tape icon. To pause live TV, press the pause button below the picture. To rewind TV or skip ads, drag the slider at the bottom of the screen back or forth.
Various plug-ins are available for ProgDVB, MyTheatre and Watch TV Pro which include Teletext, Softcam emulation, File Grabber and Diseq 1.2 support.
Warning: ProgDVB test versions 4.38.6 to 4.40.2 seem to have a recording issue where the video does not appear to be properly synchronised with the audio. When a recording from either version is played back in PowerDVD or Windows Media player (using the Elecard codec), the video gets very jumpy.
ProgDVB 4.26.4 and earlier versions as well as the recent version 4.42.4 does not have this issue.
ProgDVB is available for download at http://www.progdvb.com/
For preparing content for Video CD, DVD or archiving check this link on the satellite forum.